Business Hilights
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‘FG’s special interest for Lagos economy killing eastern ports, nothing again’

Contrary to recent news reports that the Eastern ports of Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Onne and Onitsha inland ports have remained unattractive to both shipping companies and importers due largely to insecurity and host communities hostilities, industry experts have linked the comatose status to official negligence to open the ports for serious business.

The experts argued that apparent noisy efforts of the government to revive the ports by investing in modern security equipment, signing deals with international security agencies and boosting personnel capacity to fight the menace remains diversionary.

Investigations and discussion with importers still patronising the eastern ports revealed that the key challenges frustrating ease of doing business in the ports cut across poor infrastructure and starving of funds for needed upgrades.

They voided claims of multiple taxation imposed on firms by the host communities and insecurity as the Amnesty Programme of the Federal Government had long solved the challenge over the years.

According to a shipper, who pleaded anonymity, “Let nobody be deceived on why eastern ports are not working. Look at federal agencies’ attendance to the recent House of Representatives Public Hearing on issues challenging operations of the eastern ports. How many agencies attended or were represented. Only the Nigerian Navy was represented by Rear Admiral Abraham Adaji, while there was no representative from Nigeria Customs Service at the public hearing.”

“Why is it that no core maritime agency was represented? Besides, why did the leadership of House of Representatives fail to query agencies like the Nigerian Ports Authority, NIMASA, Shippers’ Council, Port health, Ministry of Finance and others?

According to him, “Every effort is being made by the government to allow only Lagos Ports to gain from the prevailing Blue Economy but a heavy cost of traffic congestion which has embarrassed the recent Presidential Order because as of today, the Apapa end of the Oshodi Expressway is still in tartars.

Declaring the Public Hearing open, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, lamented that the Nigerian maritime sector remains one of the country’s untapped economic resource base.

Business Hilights recalls that the Chairman of the House Committee, Mr. Yusuf Buba Yakub, had expressed disappointment over the absence of Customs officials, vowing that the House would henceforth not condone such act from the NCS.

Though the expert ruled out the rumour making the rounds that the Federal Government is squeezing the eastern ports because it was allegedly used by Biafra separatists to ship in arms during the civil war which was intercepted by Nigeria Army then, he submitted that there are more that meets the eye as far as the official killing of eastern ports is concerned.

“It is either they want to continue suppressing businesses in the regions so as to better the lots of west and north who use Lagos ports, or they do not trust gatekeepers they stationed at Eastern ports.

However, corroborating the above position, the National President of the National Council of Managing Director Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero queried the attacks on Customs by the lawmakers, insisting that opening up or allowing eastern ports to flourish remains the statutory duties of maritime agencies including the NPA, NIMASA, Shippers’ Council and the Ministry of Finance and transportation.

In his question, he asked if it is the Customs that is doing the dredging of ports other than the NPA.

“How many ships can go to eastern ports? What is the draft level of Calabar and Warri ports?  Can any of these mega ships go to Warri or Calabar ports? Are the ports secured enough for people to go in there? Reviving eastern ports is strictly a Federal Government responsibility which has to do with the Minister of Transport, NPA and Shippers Council,” Amiwero averred.